LEARNING FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF OTHERS
I drink coffee... a lot of coffee! So much in fact that I named my company after it. I drink it in the morning I drink it at night, with friends and colleagues and at home. There always seems to be a coffee cup permanently stuck to my hand.
It follows naturally that to sustain that habit, as it turns out, I buy a lot of coffee too, and not just from the supermarket. I tend to buy coffee from most strategically placed coffee chains near my house and commute.
One said shop is my local rural Starbucks. I just love the place. It's kitted out beautifully, the staff are friendly and my £3.50 no frills cappuccino tastes about par every time. I am also privileged to be able to use said fuel stop regularly for which I am grateful. Perhaps the only other thing you need to understand about me is that your fairly average 6'3'' Greek guy with a heavy accent and there isn't a lot of those in rural Dumfriesshire.
I tend to rock up to said local coffee shop predominantly at the same time each morning and when there's no one else around. Every time I am asked "what can we get you?" and "can I get a name with that?".
I don't mind, I understand that it's company policy, since inner city Starbucks probably have queues as long as mr Tickles arms and they need a way to identify who the owner of a myriad identical cups actually is.
I have however started a trend by making a point of giving a name other than my own. The range of which is quite exotic, I've been Armando, Justin, Ionut, Simone, Ernesto, Fabio, Vladimir (and those are just the ones I can remember).
The point of the above though isn't to poke fun at the expense of my barista, the point is to learn from the experience I receive as customer and to avoid pitfalls the "giants" make. This is because every time the above scenario plays out for me, I feel like the person behind the counter is simply filling out my name on a spreadsheet, mechanically, unceremoniously and probably hates doing so even more than I do. The lesson learned from the above scenario is this.
Data alone, doesn't guarantee good customer service!
It cannot! Knowing your clients, engaging with them, and god forbid, being human and having conversations with them rather than putting them through funnels and processes does.
PROGRAMATIC CUSTOMER SERVICE
You see the problem with the Starbucks approach above is that although they have perfectly capable people ready, and possibly willing to provide excellent customer service, what they actually do is level the playing field. In the process instead of creating a stellar customer service, it just comes out lukewarm.
A lot of businesses do the same. They will rely so heavily on a data set, because it's easy and "inexpensive" and quick to implement that they forget that people sell to people. What I mean is this.
To guarantee good customer service, whether at the point of sale or before or after you need to understand what your customer needs. And you can only do that if you take a little bit of time to understand who they are. People are seldom the sum of entries on a spreadsheet, which is sadly the approach my baristas are forced to take.
SMALL BUSINESS LESSONS SUMMARY
So here's a summary on how to do it right
- The customer sustains your business
- The customer is more important than the process
- Customer service should be at your expense, not the customers
- Don't bend over backwards for a customer, just be human
- Get it right for your customer not for your ceo's bottom line